You must have read my book Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs.
If you haven’t, please consider the story below as an introduction to some of the ideas you will find inside.
The basic premise of the book is that -even though I tend to write about voice-overs- most of what I have to say applies to anyone who’s running, or thinking of running a freelance business.
But don’t believe me. I’m the author. You can make up your own mind.
So, if you’re in the mood for some summer reading, here’s a little taste test!
Let me preface this chapter by saying that I feel very lucky. In the past 30+ years I was able to develop a strong relationship with a number of clients. The longer we go back, the fewer words we have to waste on what each side is expecting from the other.
It’s almost like a marriage. And very much like a marriage, a lasting business relationship needs commitment from each partner. It can be love at first sight and it can also end in a divorce, due to unspoken expectations and unfulfilled desires.
When I just started out as a freelancer, one of my more cynical mentors warned me against romanticizing the relationship with my clients. His mantra:
“Business is business and the rest is bullish*t.”
Today, these words resonate even stronger. In these fast and furious times, online matchmaking is getting more and more popular. And nobody seems to take it slow anymore. Making small talk is so yesterday.
“I need your demo now. Are you available this afternoon?”
Before you know it, you’re off into some dark room talking to yourself, and when you’re done recording, you dump the files into a dropbox.
As one of my friends put it: “I almost feel used.”
Well, isn’t that the whole idea? We offer our services. We deliver our services. We move on. End of story.
Let’s be honest. Most times, both parties aren’t that interested in getting to know each other before the deal is sealed.
How well do you really know your clients? How well do they know you?
Does it even matter?
In most cases it doesn’t, as long as the job gets done. That’s why it is time to take off those rose-colored glasses and get rid of your great expectations.
Here’s my top ten of things most clients don’t seem to care about anymore:
All you are is a solution to a problem; a means to an end. It’s your job to ensure that the benefits of hiring you outweigh how much you charge. Your client doesn’t have to care about you. It’s your work that matters.
2. YOUR PERSPECTIVE
What you perceive to be the benefits of your service is not important. The question is: Do you understand the needs of your clients, and can you meet those needs?
Your take on a script (or any other freelance assignment) may be interesting, but it’s often irrelevant. You’re the stylist. The client determines how she wants her hair cut, unless you have permission to be creative.
3. YEARS OF EXPERIENCE
The fact that you’ve been at it for a certain number of years doesn’t automatically mean you’re the right person for the part. Over the years, some people have become very good at being very bad. They’re stuck in a rut.
Years of experience entitles you to nothing. In fact, it can make you look like you’re old school. The quality of your experience qualifies you. Not the length.
4. ACCOLADES & OTHER ACCOMPLISHMENTS
An impressive resume tells a client what you have done for others, usually years ago. All he really wants to know is: What can you do for ME, today?
If you can’t make that clear, why should he hire you?
Experience can also backfire.
One of my friends specializes in medical narrations. In order to impress a possible new client, he quoted a fine endorsement from a pharmaceutical company he’d been working for, for years. It was his way of saying: “See… I have a proven track record. I can easily handle your project.”
The other party was not impressed. The email he got back effectively said:
“Since you’ve established yourself as the voice of brand X, it would be unwise for us to hire you. People would automatically associate your sound with our main competitor.”
5. YOUR COST OF DOING BUSINESS
Never justify your fee by bringing up how much you have invested in your dream. That’s the price you pay for being and staying in business. After all, you don’t care about your client’s business expenses either, do you?
6. YOUR HIGH-END EQUIPMENT
Clients won’t hire you because you happen to own a Steinway. They hire you because they like the way you play, or because you offer the best value for money.
You might impress your colleagues with a brand new Neumann U87 studio microphone. My last client hadn’t even heard of the brand.
7. TECHNICAL CHALLENGES
It’s lame to blame technology for your lack of preparation. In voice-overs, home studios have become the norm. Even if you record in a stuffy bedroom closet (and call it a ‘professional studio’), you’re the head of IT, audio engineering and data transmission. If you can’t handle that, don’t expect any sympathy from the client. He’ll find someone who can.
8. PERSONAL PROBLEMS
Leave them at the door. Clients are clients; not friends or family. You’re hired to do a job, no matter how horrible you might feel about your dead cat or a recent break-up. Put your life on the back burner and focus on the project. Cry when the job is done.
9. YOUR FRAGILE EGO
You are hired to make your client look good, and not to boost your ego. If you’re in need of praise, visit an evangelical church.
10. YOUR SUBLIME UNIQUENESS
Sure, nobody talks like you or walks like you. That doesn’t make you irreplaceable. Even if you’ve worked with a client for years, don’t be surprised if they ask you to re-audition.
One of the joys of being an independent contractor is that there’s no long-term contract with severance pay, should things come to a premature end.
You’re on your own.
Never take anything for granted. Complacency will be your downfall. Be ready to prove yourself, over and over and over again.
If you don’t take care of your career, nobody else will.
Business is business.
And the rest is…
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice